The signing ceremony in June marked the starting point for the construction phase of the Rhenus Mannheim I+II and Rhenus Wörth I+II articulated push barge units. The new, low-emission flagships of the Rhenus fleet are being built at the Den Breejen shipyard in the Netherlands. The hybrid shipping units are due to be completed in September 2023 and the first trials should take place in the following month.
The units consist of a motorised vessel and as many as three barges. The vessels’ formations are extremely stable and enable operators to carry a flexible load. Thanks to the excellent floating position based on the distribution of weight and a new kind of propulsion concept, the vessels can be used, even if the water is only 1.20 metres deep. As a result, the articulated push barge units can operate in shallow waters without any problems and this increases the ideal position when unloading cargo. Rhenus is also saving significant amounts of weight through the innovative design of the vessels: the weight of the hull for the motorised vessel has been reduced to 510 tonnes, while the barges weigh just 390 tonnes.
The first Rhenus vessel of this new class, the Rhenus Mannheim I+II, has a completely new drive concept consisting of a fuel cell using hydrogen, a scalable and long-lasting lithium-ion battery and the latest generators. An electric motor drives the propellor shaft. The vessel can also be operated by remote control. The Rhenus Wörth I+II relies on a hybrid drive system consisting of batteries and stage V motors too. The vessel can be converted to operate on fuel cells. “We’re making use of all the innovations that are available to us for our new vessels. We don’t just want to take one step, but forge ahead in a ground-breaking manner and move towards sustainability,” says Thomas Kaulbach, the Managing Director of Rhenus PartnerShip. Engineers keep their eye on the fleet’s performance using the remote diagnosis service – including the engine’s performance, the fuel consumption and the emissions figures. Thanks to the continual transfer of data, it is possible to rapidly service the engines from dry land. The hybrid combination of drive technologies makes it possible to reduce harmful emissions by up to 72 percent as regards CO2 and NOx.
Rhenus is completing the major project in its shipping line of business without the need for any state funding. “We already completed a feasibility study two years ago and started our planning work. It’s definitely time to implement our forward-looking, innovative solution for inland waterway shipping now. We’re making serious efforts to ensure that the entire Rhenus Group operates in a climate-neutral manner,” says Dirk Gemmer, the Managing Director of Rhenus Transport, explaining the future plans. As the hull of an inland waterway vessel is normally in service for between 30 and 90 years, the investment in sustainable drive models for cargo shipping makes a great deal of sense. Rhenus is using the project worth millions of euros to expand its inland waterway shipping fleet in a forward-looking manner and is setting its sails to move towards sustainability. An official ship naming ceremony is being planned to inaugurate the two articulated push barge units.